The Once and Future Thing Part One: Weird Western Tales | Episode 12 (64)
Aired: January 21, 2005
Heroes: Gypsy, Stargirl, Green Lantern, Batman, Booster Gold, Supergirl, Commander Steel, Elongated Man, Shayera Hol, Wonder Woman, Bat Lash, Ohiyesa Smith, El Diablo, Jonah Hex, Warhawk, Static and Batman (II)
Supporting: Skeets and Enid Clinton
Villains: Chronos, Tobias Manning and The Jokerz (Ghoul, Bonk, Woof, The Dee Dees and Chucko)
Objects: Chronos Suit, Daisho, Time Tunnel, Power Ring, Utility Belt (Batarang and Grappling Gun), Lasso of Truth, Extradimensional Six Gun, Giant Exosuit, Static Saucer, and Batsuit Beyond (Glider)
Places: Neo Gotham, Justice League Unlimited Watchtower, and Elkhorn
Beasts: Robot Pteradactyl, Robot Dinosaur, Robot Cowboys, and Nova
Written By: Dwayne McDuffie
Directed By: Dan Riba
ReviewReview written by Alex Weitzman
By now, nobody should be surprised when TimmCo uses at least part of an episode, if not the whole thing, to honor DC comic history (and every so often, some of the other comic companies, too). Perhaps it's high time to ask - does this have the potential to alienate viewers? I myself am no comic geek, and often require the help of my best friend (who is a major comic geek) to explain certain references in the DCAU. To use Once and Future Thing, Part 1 as an example, there is a scene where Jonah Hex guesses correctly that Batman and his cohorts are time-travelers, and when asked where he came up with the idea, he simply says he's led an interesting life. I was later informed that Hex has famously time-traveled in his comic history. That's all well and good, but taking the episode on its own, doesn't that scene only function a plothole for Jonah's assumption?
As nice as it is to reference things, they're only as good as their utilization within the confines of the script itself, which is why my favorite references are usually the ones I miss, as opposed to the ones I recognize but don't get. Finding out later that something which worked in an episode has a vast comic history is much more satisfying than watching a scene and thinking, "I'd have to have read the comics to get that."
However, to play devil's advocate to myself, it is also worth noting that I found the moment curious enough on its own accord to ask my friend to explain it. I've sat through many things in my life where I had neither a frame of reference in regards to the content nor even remotely enough interest towards rectifying my own ignorance. "Tribute" episodes like Once and Future Thing, Part 1, in that case, serve two purposes, one for each audience. For the audience that knows the history, it is meant as a loving paean to what has come before, in both tone and character. For those who don't, it is meant to inspire the viewer to seek out the knowledge for themselves.
What does all this mean for Once and Future Thing, Part 1? It means that I don't have too much to say about the episode itself. It was a fun ride. Sometimes it was ridiculous (like the dino-bots), sometimes it was effective (like Sheriff Smith's flashback), sometimes it was observant (like Diana's comment about the Old West's bullets) and sometimes it was just good goofy fun (like David's wife Enid ripping into David for not stealing valuables - gotta love Mindy "Frau Farbissina" Sterling, master of yelling). As much as I've been told, this is entirely in line with the soul of the Old West comics that this episode is paying tribute to. Therefore, it must be counted as a success, because it set out to accomplish something and did so. If I knew more, I'd probably be more equipped to share in the victory.
Oh, and as far as the last couple of minutes go, that was a lot of wide-eyed moments for the span of a few seconds. With Part 2 dealing with a DCAU world as opposed to any historical setting, tribute will definitely not be the name of the game. If anything, Part 2 looks to be an entirely different beast than Part 1.